It’s late January.
The month of my birth, and the first month of the year, it is also the month when my aging body grows tired of the cold. When my bones ache from the freeze. January, for me, is when the charm of winter starts to fade just as quickly as the pure white snow can turn itself muddy and gray. Christmas has come. Jesus and the New Year have come, and gone, sweeping up with them every last bit of wonder and resolution. I reach my breaking point in late January, and then resign to suffer in quiet silence until May, when I finally let my breath exhale. May is the month when I ultimately let my heart have hope again, hope that God is going to let the winter of my soul end. May is when I believe in God all over. I am reborn again each year, in May.
These January days of frozen tundra are the reason I need May to come each year. I live, waiting for May. May has a way of making me remember all that the solemn chill of January led me to forget. May cascades and rolls sweetly into my life, taking the grays and retelling my narrative with calming blues and vibrant greens. May is seeing God in every sunrise, remembering how He remembers us and breaks the cold. In May are the days of tall grace and deep talks with Him, of twilight walks through new fields and old woods. The days of young wonder, when around every corner is a fresh treasure, a divinely planted marvel to fix my gaze upon. I would direct my praises up to the sun-livened sky, to be carried off by birds and blowing dandelion seeds. My prayers would catch soft breezes and float effortlessly to the heavens, where God resides with Jesus at His right hand. All was well.
But, it has been many lifetimes since I have felt the sun kiss my face. If summer is a carefree laugh and a suggestive gaze under droopy, sun-drunk eyelids, winter is a much more a standoffish teenager, full of snarky insecurities and stiff embraces. Winter is all elbows and knees; she has none of the delicate curves of her late sister, summer. She is rough and rigid. Jealous. Ungrateful.
And that is the state of my heart come January, when the outer coolness becomes a reflection of the inner coolness of my own state of mind, unveiling an ever-widening chasm in my soul. Complaints roll off the tongue as I don a jacket made heavier by bitterness and remorse. It gets dark too early. My feet are frozen. Each mitten is pulled over fingers and thumbs with anguish. The same glorious snowfall that made my heart leap with joy in December now only makes me groan and wonder about the poor quality of my ice-scraper. I don’t bat an eyelash at the sunrise. I reduce the miracle to ash.
I wonder if this breaks God’s heart a little.
When did I grow so indifferent? At what point in the season did I let my soul slip into a coma from the cold? Have I forgotten how to have eyes for my One True Love? I’ve stopped looking for Him in the trees and in the skies; I’ve quit trying to find His heart in the way the roots dig their way into the soil, in the smooth edges of a sunset. I’ve been sleepwalking through life, neglecting to notice the many ways He pursues me. How he pursues me even now, in this winter filled with cold fingertips and flushed cheeks.
The wind suddenly flirts, teasing to unravel the scarf from my neck and to pull the hood from my head, to run its fingers through my hair. And like Jacob, my waking soul exclaims: “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” And all of a sudden I am amazed. I blush, but this time not from the cold; it’s from His gentle hand and tender touch, His warmth. His presence. He is here. At his touch, my soul re-awakens.
It’s like I have new eyes, eyes that see fresh blessings, as fresh as the delicate snowflakes I once took for granted. A slow transformation has begun in my soul way deep down. I feel the frost of January start to thaw. I recognize His presence in the dark, noticing the snow under a star lit sky, the moon held balanced on branches. It’s like witnessing a heavenly photo shoot- the moon is the camera, and the glitter in the snow makes up the thousand little flashes. And it’s silent.
The silence I find myself in is a warm silence, a comforting silence, the kind of silence that I don’t need music to fill. It is embracing in all its quietness, because it is finding and entering and stilling the deepest parts of my soul. Still, like sun-melt ice on gravel roads, and small puddles. Reflective.
Restlessness, bitterness and complaint can’t touch this kind of silence. This is the silence that escorts into worship, for it is getting quiet enough to hear His voice. Because He whispers, not screams.
It’s late January, and my heart is warm once more.
Late January is when I catch the post office man at the mailbox, just in time to give him my hand-painted letter to send off with love to my grandmother in Florida. It’s noticing the afternoon sun peeking out with all the power to melt my heart. It’s being diligent in prayer, in going to His word without an agenda. It’s in the way it is okay for me to have innocent hope, because even if it all falls apart, God will be here to pick me up. He will be here, even if May is ushered in with snow storms and hail.
May is not so much a month of life for me as it is a state of mind; a state of thanks and rebirth, and of having eyes and a heart to see God’s grace in the everyday small moments. He is here always, and He gives meaning to the mundane. He is the one to make things grow out of soil once buried under heaps of snow. More than anything, He is the one keeping my soul warm.
Recognizing His presence is the only key that thaws my soul from January to May.